Controversial Corstorphine Community Centre plans shelved as existing facilities need £14m and at risk of closure

SNP councillors have failed in an attempt for proposals to be drawn up to help rebuild a community centre after it was revealed there is no funding available until 2023 and the authority’s other facilities need almost £14m of improvements.

Saturday, 7th December 2019, 4:00 pm
Proposals to rebuild Corstorphine Community Centre, which was damaged in a fire in 2013

A row erupted over proposals by the SNP group at Edinburgh City Chambers for trying to commit to detailed plans for a new Corstorphine Community Centre and library as a hub would be brought forward next month. But the plan was withdrawn after concerns were raised that the authority’s existing community centre are in need of vast improvements and some could be at risk of closure.

The “disquiet” emerged amid accusations on both sides of using the project, in the SNP target seat of Edinburgh West in the general election, as a political football amid pre-election restrictions. But the council’s finance director said that following advice, “it was the chief executive’s ruling that this report should come forward”.

Edinburgh City Council’s head of property and facilities management, Peter Watton, told councillors that at least £13.8m was needed to refurbish the authority’s current community centres, some were at risk of closure before money was available and that he has been lobbied by councillors to prioritise certain projects.

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He said: “There is a risk that some community centres may be forced to close before 2023 and we want to highlight that risk to members so that they are aware of the situation. There is no budget available.

“At this moment in time, many members are emailing me about the condition of community centres in their ward and asking me to invest in those community centres. My answer is, I have no budget to do so until, at the earliest, 2023.”

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Following the information being revealed, councillors agreed the plea for the Corstorphine proposals to be withdrawn and instead, a consultation will be held with the community for the hub model to be included “in a wider review of the community centre asset management strategy” which will be published in March. A “letter of comfort” will also be sent to the organisers who had appealed to the council for £750,000 of support for the project.

Finance and resources convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, said: “There are a number of funders in place at the moment with the Corstorphine Community Centre who will need to know that the council has some commitment to the Corstorphine Community Centre.

“I think the funders will need some reassurance that the council has some stake in this – otherwise those funders may withdraw. That could lead to the complete collapse of any solution for the community centre.”

Following the decision, Green finance spokesperson, Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “Every councillor is passionate about the fantastic work that community centres do. We heard at committee that the existing community centres need a minimum of £14m spent on them to bring them up to standard and that some are at risk of shutting their doors until improvements are made.

“So it is against that backdrop that new requests for funding need to be looked at. There is a lot of disquiet about the way this has been handled but I really hope a way is found for Corstorphine to rebuild the community centre, along with all the others which need vital work.”

Conservative Cllr Andrew Johnson added: “There is a clear process behind budget setting. It is important that all applications are assessed in the round and fairness has to be the over-riding principle”.